Rock-jazz icon makes rare Vilar appearance
BEAVER CREEK – Ellen Casey considers the songs of Rickie Lee Jones to be the soundtrack of her life.Casey, who lives in Avon and teaches skiing at Beaver Creek, has been an avid Jones fan since high school. She can hardly wait to see her idol perform Sunday at the Vilar Center.”She has songs you hear a million times, you know all the words, but you still cry,” Casey said. “She’s an amazing lyricist. She creates this whole world for you with every song. She does so well (articulating) heartbreak and disappointment. There’s so much heart and soul in her work. It’s a whole part of my life from high school through my college years. She was definitely a soundtrack of my life.”Jones, 50, has produced nine albums, one EP and multiple singles, the most famous of which is probably “Chuck E’s In Love.” Since the release of her first self-titled album in 1979, she has been the recipient of several Grammy awards.
She was added to the Vilar Center winter lineup at the last minute and will appear in Beaver Creek Sunday as part of three exclusive Colorado appearances – she’ll perform in Aspen and Denver Monday and Tuesday.”I remember when her stuff first came out, everyone was like, ‘Wow, this is a really cool sound.’ It was the same sort of reaction people had when people like Tracy Chapman and Suzanne Vega released their first albums,” said Kris Sabel, director of the Vilar Center. “She was alternative back in the ’80s before anyone knew what alternative was. She’s a little jazzy, a little bluesy, a little rock ‘n’ roll. She’s got this small, little girl voice when she talks, but when she sings, it’s just haunting.”Jones writes about everything from showbiz to road kill and has been known to take a break from her guitar during live performances for a round on the piano.”She’s a brilliant, brilliant storyteller,” Casey said. “She has this song that talks about this guy and this girl. They’re trying to work through things, and he’s reaching for his wallet and he gets shot and killed. It’s devastating. That’s what her gift is. She creates these people and these worlds. Every one has a different flavor. I don’t know if they’re about her own life or not. Just listening to her songs, you have to kind of think that she’s been there.”
Casey and her best friend in second grade, who later became her boyfriend, note Jones’ “Company” as their theme song, especially when the two went separate ways to college. “It really expressed how I felt,” Casey said. “How you have this relationship with someone through space and time. Even if you’re not with them, they’re there. You hear songs like ‘Chuck E’s In Love,’ and it doesn’t really represent the body of (Jones’) work. Her music is just like a smoky jazz club, playing hooky and growing up in the neighborhood.”Jones has been compared with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, and Casey refers to her as “a female Tom Waits,” who, she allegedly helped to make famous. “I remember in ’79 or ’80, she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live,” Sabel said. “For a while, she was fairly in the limelight.”
Casey has never seen Jones perform live, and as excited as she is for Sunday’s show, she said she has no plans to accost Jones and profess her admiration.”I don’t think she needs to hear it from me,” Casey laughed. “It’s just enough for me to go there and listen. Even if people don’t know her music they should come out. It’s a very rare opportunity. I’ve never seen her live, but I can’t imagine anyone would leave disappointed.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.